July 19, 2012

Bollywood author Shobhan Bantwal tackles love and looks in her new book, THE RELUCTANT MATCHMAKER

Once again I'm happy to welcome Shobhan Bantwal, author of the Bollywood-flavored novels, THE DOWRY BRIDE, THE SARI SHOP WIDOW, THE FULL MOON BRIDE, and her sixth and latest book, THE RELUCTANT MATCHMAKER.

THE RELUCTANT MATCHMAKER starts with a bizarre accident. Petite and successful Meena Shenoy's contented life turns upside down when she collides, literally, with her strikingly tall boss, Prajay Nayak, and suffers a nasty fall. But when she discovers that he's a bright, caring, family-oriented man, she's attracted to him. When he unexpectedly asks her to meet him in secret, she wonders whether he feels the same way about her.

Meena walks into his office that evening with high romantic hopes. Imagine her shock when instead of declaring interest in her Prajay makes an astonishing request: He wants her to craft a personal ad that will help him find a suitable wife - a statuesque, sophisticated Indian-American woman who will complement his striking height.

Despite her feelings for Prajay and the complications of balancing work and her "marriage consultant" role, Meena can't refuse the assignment, or the generous fee attached to it. While she nurses her bruised heart, Meena comes to some surprising realizations about love, tradition, and the sacrifices she will—and won't—make to fight for the man she loves.

Shoban thank you for appearing again on the blog. (* See my previous interviews with her about her books The Full Moon Bride and The Sari Shop Widow.)

Q: At this point after several books, is it harder to come up with ideas?

Ideas are always in abundance, but it is the creative ways to bring them to fruition that can dry up after a while. A 350-page book requires a lot of intriguing characters, scenes, dialogue, and conflicts that keep the readers turning the pages and eagerly wanting to know what happens next. Creativity in terms of crafting the novel can begin to get a little scarce after writing multiple books.

Q: What do you find surprising as a writer at this stage of your career?

What amazes me at this point is how much effort and time it still takes to keep promoting my books. Despite the loyal following developed over the past several years and my name recognition within the sub-genre, when a new book is released, the promotion engine needs to be fed fresh fuel at a steady pace.

Q: What lesson/s have you learned in writing this book?

The lesson I have learned in writing not just this book but all my books is that an author should never become complacent, nor should she take her loyal readers for granted. Readers are what keeps an author moving forward and they should be respected. With hundreds of thousands of books coming out each year, it is easy to lose readers to other authors, therefore, just like a business needs to focus first and foremost on customer service, an author needs to keep her readers satisfied and coming back for more.

Q: Do you feel tackling the subjects you do (dowries, matchmakers and arranged marriages, marrying for looks, sons favored over daughters) has made any impact in Indian society?

Until now, my books have been released strictly in the United States and Canada, so large numbers of readers in India have not been exposed to them. However, an Indian publisher has just bought the rights to all six of my books and plans to release them over the next two years. I am excited that the social issues that I have tackled in some of my novels will now be open for debate to Indian readers. I can only hope that my stories will have at least some minimal impact on Indian society.

Q: For your own children, do you recommend they follow traditions or modern ways?

Our only child, a daughter, was born and brought up in the United States. We raised her in the American tradition of free thinking and individuality, so she is totally American in her viewpoint and lifestyle. Of course, she went through her rebellious teens, where she didn't want to be associated with our Hindu traditions. But now, as a young wife and mother of two, she has come to appreciate those same Indian customs and cuisine that she had disdained in her youth.

Q: What was the best and worst part of writing this book? What did you learn from it?

The best part was immersing myself in my heroine's journey. I could totally sympathize with her trials and tribulations, so it was a lot of fun to write about it. The worst part was knowing that most American readers would consider it silly to get hung up on physical looks when a relationship consists of so much more than that. And yet, in my Indian culture, physical compatibility between the potential bride and groom is something that is seriously weighed when arranging a marriage. What I learned while writing this tale about two people who are physically polar opposites is that it can be an entertaining topic, but it is not easy to write about.

Q: What are your favorite, and least favorite, parts in the book, and why? What did it mean to you?

My favorite part in the story is towards the end, when my heroine Meena realizes that the hero, Prajay, has finally discovered his true feelings for her, just when she had given up hope. To me it was a difficult scene to craft, to get it just right, and hence rather special.

There is so much emotion in the scene where Meena asks Prajay if he might have regrets later about starting a relationship with her. His reply to that is ""The only decision I regret is not telling you earlier. I wasted a lot of time.”

My least favorite part is when Meena has to make the heart-wrenching decision to give up her dream job and move to the West Coast, just so she doesn't have to watch the man she loves marry another woman.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts on the topic? How did you feel about writing it; what did it mean to you personally?

Being a very petite woman married to a suitably short man, I always wondered how it would be for a tiny woman to fall in love with a giant of a man. After years of having that idea swirling in my mind, I finally wrote about that very topic. The book was released less than two weeks ago, so I will have to wait and see what the reaction of readers is.

Q: What other subjects would you like to tackle?

Homelessness is a topic that I am deeply interested in. In fact, I have a manuscript written about a homeless Indian man. However, I doubt that the story will ever see the light of day, mainly because it does not fit into my established genre. Although poverty and homelessness are rampant in India, one hardly ever sees homeless Indian people in the United States. Nevertheless it is not impossible to imagine. I feel that such an unusual subject would make a good story, and interesting to some readers.

About the author:

Shobhan Bantwal is an award-winning author of six multicultural women's fiction books with romantic elements and numerous short stories, branded as "Bollywood in a Book." Her articles have appeared in The Writer magazine, Romantic Times, India Abroad, India Currents, and New Woman. Shobhan lives with her husband in Arizona.

Visit her website to learn about her books, trailers, contests, photos, recipes, and more. Check out her Facebook page.

* Check out the book trailer.

* See the rest of the book tour.
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